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Big plays on defense set tone for attack
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The Manteca High defense can look forward to an early Thanksgiving.
After Friday’s 52-0 drubbing of Los Banos in the semifinal of the Sac-Joaquin Division IV playoffs, defensive coordinator Rick James will be more than thrilled to feed the likes of James Thomas, Devyn Gonzales, Ferrin Manuleleua, Justin Kakala, Gerson Gomez, Kyle Reis, and Vincent Ferro, to name a few.
Manteca (10-1) has four shutouts this season and has held seven opponents to single digits. Coach James treats the whole team to a meal after keeping a team scoreless. It’s all part of a longtime tradition at the school, but this one promises to be a little bit tastier following the statement game by the defense that featured a pair of fourth-down stops.
“Those were momentum shifts,” said James, who had his team do extra film study on Los Banos.
As a result, the Buffaloes limited the Tigers to 198 total yards, including 66 yards on the ground.
Early on, Reis and Manuleleua stuffed the middle and Andrew Thomas had a tackle behind the line of scrimmage for a 4-yard loss.
Manteca kept up the pressure as Thomas, Kobe Shippley and Gonzales converged on a quarterback sack. The defensive pressure also caused an intentional grounding penalty by the Tigers.
The only big play by Los Banos took place in the middle of the first half – Anthony Caballero took a short pass from Christian Corral for a 42-yard gain.
Trailing 7-0, the Tigers, who looked to keep that drive alive inside the Buffaloes’ red zone, were faced with a fourth-down and short situation. That’s when the Manteca defense rose to the occasion with the stop.
Later in the second, Los Banos was faced with fourth-and-two at midfield. Inside linebacker James Thomas came up with the clutch tackle, one of his team-high eight.
After that, Manteca quickly upped its lead 15-0, with Gino Campiotti needing just three plays on his 5-yard score.
The Buffaloes defense then came up with a turnover, with Ferro going 43 yards on the interception return coupled with the 15 yards tacked on by a Los Banos penalty. Manteca went into the half with a 22-0 following Joel Olmos’ 31-yard touchdown grab on the next play.
The defense picked up where it left off in the second half.
Kakala came up with the big play, scoring on a blocked punt that occurred shortly after a Los Banos safety and a Kameron Beamon touchdown following the ensuing kickoff.
“My coach (Paul Nelson) told me to put my hands straight up,” said Kakala, recalling the moment when he cleanly came up with the block punt.
He was uncertain if he could score on the play, picking up the ball upon the urging of his teammates. “It took a while for me to process (the play),” Kakala said. He earlier recorded his team-leading 10th sack for the season.
Buffaloes head coach Eric Reis was also proud of his defense following last week’s effort against Dixon.
“We played with more focus and energy – we played up to Manteca’s standards,” he said.